Friday, June 7, 2013

Communication really is key. Anybody know where I left my key?

I'm a communicator by trade.

Since 1993 I've made a living marketing brands' goods and services. And since 2004, I've made nice income on the side writing - helping companies communicate via their website, print and web ads, brochures, press releases, training manuals, video scripts and the like.
So, really, I'm a professional communicator. Right? I know a thing or two about how to use the right words to communicate the message. Let's agree on that right off the bat.

Still with me?

So, why is it that there are still times when I might not understand a message being delivered to me? And when my message to others is misunderstood? I'm a professional, dammit!

Okay, but here's the thing.  Each of us comes equipped with a brain (yeah, yeah, that's questionable... I know you're reading this thinking, uh, yeah, not this guy I know...). But in general, let's agree that most everyone's got a little something upstairs.

The problem is, along with the brain power, that mass in the head is also filled with various messages, thoughts, and life experiences that give us our own world view, a different voice, and a unique filter for receiving said messages.

Case in point.  A few weeks ago, an old friend invited me to a baseball game. I'll state up front that this friend is male.  Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course (insert polite laughter among the men, knowing smirks among the women).  But it's been proven - in a published book no less - that men and women are from two different planets. And if the printed word is to be believed, well, that's like communicating with someone who, quite literally, can be roughly anywhere between 60 and 222 million miles away (this according to a scientific website - the distance changes based on the movement of the planets of course. But I find this very interesting because it also speaks to the fact that some males and females communicate very well together while others, well... not so much).

But I digress.  The morning of the baseball game, this friend (let's call him "T") called me apologizing. He had forgotten that he'd already invited someone else to the game, and forgot. Just like that, I was out. She was in. My mind received the message something like this: I realized I'd rather go to the game with her, so I'm essentially uninviting you. Sorry. I found out later from "T" that in his mind, it was more important to do the right thing. He truly had forgotten. He'd been reminded, and believed that the right thing to do was to honor the original commitment, regardless of what he wanted to do. In his mind, it was right vs. wrong. In my mind it was her vs. me.


In case it's a bit convoluted, here's my point: Know your audience. This is absolutely essential.
What if you are "talking to" a very large audience? you ask.  Good question! This is why it's so important to make your messages clear and use the simplest language. I want to laugh when I read emails, blog posts, and articles that use "big fancy" words. Exactly who are you trying to impress? Simplicity is key. Be clear. Be concise. And leave no room for interpretation. That way, regardless of your audience, your odds of being understood will be that much better.

I love words.  Really.  I'm fascinated by them. How they can be put together in so many ways, to create so many meanings. I'm fascinated by where language comes from, how it's interpreted. And why it's misunderstood.

I find it fascinating, too, that writing is becoming both commonplace (now that the internet, blogs, e-publishing and texting has given everyone a platform and a voice) and a lost art (what with all the butchering of our language, proper grammar and punctuation).

What do you think of the great gender divide? Are we really so far apart in our communication? And I'm curious, is there anyone else out there who shudders when they come across a gross butchering of our language? What's your biggest grammar peeve?


  1. This sounds nit-picky, but I hate when people say, "I could care less." What they really mean is "I could not care less."

    As a 3rd grade teacher, I can overlook lots of things. Double negatives. Split-infinitives (since I do that in my writing sometimes, and I always defer to our resident GB). "I" when it should be "me" and vice versa. So probably, I am not the best person to ask.

    (You know what else bothers me? People who overuse ellipsis. That really bugs me ;)

    1. Sioux... I can remember being young - around 7th grade and hearing a friend say "I could care less" - tried to explain to her that what she meant to say was "I couldn't care less" - and being looked at like I was crazy. Lord, I guess that means I've always been a GB - ha! I'm impressed that you can overlook the double negative - HATEHATEHATE that!
      Oh, but that ellipsis - now THAT is clever writing technique - can not be overused - ha!

  2. I do shudder when I read/hear the English language butchered. I read it every day in students' papers (graduate students in education no less!). Using "that" in place of "who" just raises the hair on my head! Gender divide...obviously, but experiences play a huge part in how we understand something also. I think that being women we generally understand things the same way....but it could be that there are men out there who also understand what we say....someday I'll find him:)

    1. That/Who is such a common one, I see it all the time - even in national magazines... and hear it - on TV, in movies, news programs. Ugh.

      Re: the gender divide... it certainly keeps things interesting : )

  3. I'm guilty of that/who and could care less... but I'm getting better!

    1. Haha Lynn! Well.... that's what editors are for, right?!

  4. This is a great post, Beth! I'm finally getting around to joining my writing friends' blogs. Good point about writing being both commonplace and a lost art. Texts REALLY butcher language, and spelling, but I find myself doing it more and more :(

    1. Hi Theresa... thanks for stopping by! I'm not very disciplined when it comes to blogging - or reading other blogs - but I try to stay caught up as best I can. I suppose texting is meant to be quick and easy... I am just old-fashioned about it - can't seem to break the habit - maybe it's for the best ; )